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Frequently asked questions about Brett Pill

Ezra Shaw

Brett Pill was called up; Francisco Peguero was sent down. As an exchange of useful parts, the Giants probably came out ahead. If baseball is an arcade, Pill is a dime and Peguero is a nickel. Neither one is going to be a great help, but you'll take the dime if everything else is equal. Maybe it'll come in handy in a way you don't quite understand yet.

Of course, everything else is not equal. Bruce Bochy is in this metaphorical arcade, and he likes to pretend the dime works. He keeps shoving it into Big Buck Hunter and pretending he's playing. Pow pow pow! Take that, you stupid pheasant! Insert coins? But I did. Pow pow pow! Take that, you stupid boar! Insert coins? But I did.

Which is to say that Bochy doesn't always view Pill properly -- a dime in an arcade that uses quarters, or a bat on the far end of the bench. No, Pill will get starts against left-handed pitchers. And they'll come at the expense of Brandon Belt, most likely, which is a great way to get some nerd rage going around here.

With that in mind, it's probably time to have a Brett Pill FAQ that we can all refer to for the future.

Q. Do you hate Brett Pill?
Goodness, no. What a stupid question. He's employed by the San Francisco Giants. I hope he wins the Triple Crown and steals 80 bases. When he hit his transcendent homer against Clayton Kershaw, he might have cost Kershaw Cy Young votes. You're a Giant for life when you do that.

Q. So what's your problem with him?
The odds are that he isn't very good. Granted, baseball is usually blackout drunk. And there's always a chance for, say, Jose Bautista to come out of nowhere and become a star. We follow a team that won a World Series because someone rolled away the stone covering Ryan Vogelsong's tomb. Is Pill a guaranteed flop? Heck, no. If a player is talented enough to be one of the 1,200 players on a 40-man roster, he's capable of reminding us that baseball is weird.

But here's a list of players who weren't rookies until they were 26 or older, ranked by career home runs. You'll see familiar names, like Raul Ibanez, Jeff Conine, and Matt Stairs. Except those players had a handle on their plate discipline in the minors, walking as much as they struck out. Pill has a career minor-league OBP of .330 (.336 in Triple-A).

Even if you weigh his last three seasons in Fresno more because they're recent, Pill slugged just a little over .500 in Fresno. You know who else came close to that? Justin Christian, Cole Gillespie, and Tony Abreu -- all guys the Giants picked up for free because it's just not that rare or special for anyone to slug like that in the Pacific Coast League, much less a first baseman.

Q. It's never happened for a guy like Pill, then? I find that hard to believe.
No, it's happened. Garrett Jones is probably the best recent example. Jones never had great discipline, and he was in the minors until he was 28 with a career .259/.313/.450 line. That's a total non-prospect. He somehow got a full-time job with the Pirates when he was 28, though, and he never stopped hitting. He's still a pretty nifty bat for the Pirates to have, and he's now a millionaire. Corey Koskie is another good example.

Those are great stories, and I hope something like that happens for Pill. But expecting it would be like trading for Jerome Williams and putting him in the rotation because it would be a similar story to Vogelsong. The exceptions don't make up the new rules as they go along.

Q. But he at least mashes lefties, and Belt is kind of a turd against them, right?
Pill is certainly killing lefties in Triple-A this year (1.200 OPS in 36 AB), but he actually hit much worse against lefties in the minors last year. He was better against them in 2011 than he was against righties, but worse in 2010. In 2009, he was eerily even against both kinds of pitchers.

That is to say, Pill doesn't have any identifiable platoon splits. There are players out there who do, and they might be better hitters than Belt against lefties at this stage of his career. Pill is not one of those players. Belt started his career hitting lefties better than righties, but that difference is vanishing. That doesn't mean Pill is automatically better because he's a right-handed hitter.

Q. Maybe Pill just needs time to develop?
He's 28 -- literally halfway between Bryce Harper and Pat Burrell. No, this is probably the player we should expect from now on.

Q. What's your suggestion, then? Shoot him into the sun? It's not like the Giants are starting Joey Votto at first with Mike Napoli on the bench.
The suggestion is, and forever will be, that he doesn't platoon with Belt. Gets an occasional spot start? Sure. Used as a late-inning pinch-hitter? He's probably better suited for that than anyone else on the 40-man, a perfect mix of good-enough and fully formed. He fits on a lefty-heavy bench and he's not a raw prospect who needs at-bats. He just isn't a starter.

The thing is, I think the Giants agree. There's a reason Pill wasn't with the team down the stretch and on the playoff roster last year. I used to make fun of them for thinking Pill was an indispensable cog, but I think last year showed that's not how they view him. He'll get some starts, but not every one against lefties. And he'll DH a bit, too.

Q. Beats Joaquin Arias, though, right?
Exactly. The Giants were using Arias in the Pill role until now, mostly because they didn't want to take Brandon Crawford off the field. Pill is better at the Pill role. Maybe I'm stupid enough to think the Giants got better, however incrementally, by swapping Pill in for Peguero. So welcome back, Brett Pill. READ THE INSTRUCTION MANUAL THAT CAME WITH HIM, BRUCE BOCHY. But, mostly, welcome back.

Q. Wait, before you go, what's this about him looking like Joffrey from Game of Thrones?